Sunday, March 14, 2010

Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America (Jay Parini)

A family member recently received a Kindle as a gift and was eager to show it to me. He was confused when I ran kicking and screaming from the room (I exaggerate only a little). Is nothing sacred? Does everything on this beautiful place we call Earth have to be completely technological? Is the closing of libraries and bookstores right around the corner?

Books have been around forever, not the "download this bestseller for $7.99 kind", but the good, old-fashioned, "turn-the-page" kind. Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America is not your average "Best Books Ever" list. There is no The Fountainhead in sight. What Parini does do is come up with a very interesting list of books that, when introduced to popular culture, changed life as we know it. When Harriet Beecher Stowe met Abraham Lincoln after the release of Uncle Tom's Cabin, he is famously quoted as saying "So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!" In addition, who can argue that Dr. Benjamin Spock changed child rearing as we know it when he published his The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care?

This is the kind of book you can pick up in March and finish in June. It will not appeal to everybody (I can't see the average American going into Barnes & Noble and picking up a copy of The Federalist Papers), but it is fine reading for those who love literary history.


This review can also be found at